Define ‘seriousness’

DEFINE ‘SERIOUSNESS’…. I’ve read Peggy Noonan’s latest Wall Street Journal column a couple of times, hoping to see what she sees. I’m afraid I’m at a loss.

Mr. Obama should have written the stimulus bill side by side with Republicans, picked them off, co-opted their views. Did he not understand their weakness? They had no real position from which to oppose high and wasteful spending, having backed eight years of it with nary a peep. They started the struggle over the stimulus bill at a real disadvantage. Then four things: Nancy Pelosi served up old-style pork, Mr. Obama swallowed it, Republicans shocked themselves by being serious, and then they startled themselves by being unified. But it was their seriousness that was most important: They didn’t know they were! They hadn’t been in years!

It’s tempting to note that Obama did try to co-opt Republicans by including a bunch of tax cuts in the bill. It’s also tempting to note that the idea of Pelosi serving up “old-style pork” is kind of silly when House Republicans, by their own admission, found 98% of the spending in the stimulus package inoffensive.

But let’s put that aside. Republicans should be lauded for their “seriousness“? Is this some kind of typo?

As Noam Scheiber explained, “What is it, exactly, that Noonan finds so serious about Republicans these days? As far as I can tell, we’re debating a $900 billion effort to fill a $2 trillion gap in demand over the next two years, and Republicans have been moaning about a few hundred million in spending on contraceptives. That’s serious? I’d hate to see them when they’re being flip.”

I would, in all sincerity, love nothing more than to see Republican members of Congress try to be “serious” about this. Instead, they’re making charts explaining how high a pile of a $1 trillion goes; whining incessantly about the size of the package while adding more tax cuts to it; voting on amendments to the package to address attacks on religion that don’t exist in reality; and voting for their own version of a stimulus package that lacks any and all stimulus.

Yes, by all means, let’s all herald a new era of Republican “seriousness.”

Honestly, the past couple of weeks, it seems as if much of the political world has been on crazy pills.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.